Monitoring the environment at sea in a region where waves are usually some five metres high is obviously challenging. That is what Vattenfall plans to do off the coast of the Shetland Islands in Scotland, the site of the company’s first wave-energy farm.
The location for the wave energy farm was chosen because of the high-energy wave climate, which determines the amount of electricity the farm can generate. Before it can be built, however, its environmental impact must be assessed.
”Conducting biological and environmental surveys in the open ocean is not an easy task,” says Kristin Andersen, Environment and Localisation Manager for the Vattenfall Ocean Energy Development Programme (OEDP). “In addition to the rough sea conditions, the animals move around freely, depending on the time and season. This makes it challenging to locate them.”
“This is partly pioneering work. Wave energy is an emerging industry, and many knowledge gaps will have to be addressed in our environmental impact assessment (EIA) surveys. It is very exciting, and we all look forward to putting the instruments in the water so we can undertake better adapted R&D in the future.”
Memorandum of understanding
In November 2011, Vattenfall signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shetland Islands Council and the Shetland Charitable Trust to devise a roadmap for ocean energy development near the Shetland Islands. The initial focus will be on the development of the 10 MW Aegir wave project off the west coast of the islands.
The wave energy farm, to be developed by Vattenfall’s joint venture company Aegir Wave Power Ltd, will be deployed after consent has been given by Scottish authorities, including Marine Scotland. The basis for the consent decision is the environmental impact assessment, which will describe and evaluate the local environment and the potential impacts from the wave-energy farm.
Extensive field studies
The environmental impact assessment will include studies of the wave climate, the sea bottom and the wildlife in the area. It will start in spring 2012 and will take at least one year. The field studies may include investigation of whether the wave farm emits noise that affects wildlife; mapping of the seabed habitats, wildlife and vegetation; and examining the best route for the power cable.
Vattenfall regards the Shetland Islands as a key strategic location for wave energy development, due to the area’s excellent resources, access to the power grid, and synergies with existing local skill sets developed to support the oil and gas industry. Vattenfall hopes to have the 10 MW pilot wave-power project in the Shetland Islands in place in 2015/2016.
Offshore WIND staff, March 23, 2012; Image: pelamiswave